The Dawson's Creek Episode Guide: Kiss
Despite my commitment to Dawson's Creek, it turns out I'm a complete idiot. I have seen "Kiss," the third episode of Creek's premiere season, plenty of times, and only on this viewing did I notice that the fake name Joey uses with strange new gentleman Anderson Crawford is a variation on the name of the star of From Here to Eternity, which Dawson and Joey watch to kick off the episode. Joey, ashamed of her station in life as the relatively poor daughter of a convict, wants to impress the rich boarding school kid who just rolled into town on a sailboat playing a damn violin. She talks herself up as a fellow boarding school kid from New York who has an Upper East Side lifestyle and is named Deborah Carson (a riff on Eternity star Deborah Kerr). Later in the episode, during their sailing date, Joey and Anderson end up entangled on the sand at the edge of the water, just like Kerr and Burt Lancaster in the scene Dawson and Joey watch at the top of the hour. Though Dawson fantasizes that his impending kiss with Jen will be just like that sequence, it's Joey who comes a hairsbreadth away from actually re-enacting that scene.
In the end, Joey feels too guilty about lying to Anderson about who she is, and Dawson does end up getting his kiss (though not in the elaborately-staged context he initially intends). Maybe it's just the prism of the rest of the series affecting my judgment, but Joey's near-miss is particularly gut-wrenching. Even at this early stage, a mere three episodes into her existence as a character, Joey has already put up with way too much of Dawson's bullshit to get denied her From Here to Eternity moment, and when she gets caught in her final lie and tosses Anderson's phone number on the side of the road, it's strangely brutal.
Less emotionally engaging? Pacey and Tamara's very short road to finally fucking. Pacey gets himself some tutoring from Tamara about Ethan Frome, and Tamara goes to the trouble of teasing him with "positive reinforcement" if he answers some questions correctly. That leads to Tamara's inevitable waffling, though even when she calls Pacey's bluff, she still half-undresses in front of him. The tension in this scene is surreal in a way that I don't often see on television, but here's my fundamental problem: I don't know if Tamara's complicated psychology is meant to be purposeful or if the writing is just a little bit shoddy. This time around, I kind of like all of Tamara's mixed messages—she operates a lot like an addict struggling with recovery, knowing full well what the consequences of her actions will be yet still compelled to commit to them. But since we don't ever really get Tamara's perspective on anything, it's hard to tell what her psychology is and what her true intentions might be. (I seem to remember some of these issues resolved when Tamara shows up one last time in Capeside in "Tamara Returns," an episode in the second season, but we won't know that for sure for another 14 weeks, right?) All we really have is Pacey's psychoanalyzing, and since Pacey has naturally kept his affections for Tamara (mostly) secret thus far, we also don't get a sense of the world outside of the two of them. (It also doesn't help that outside of one conversation with film teacher Mr. Gold in this episode, Tamara's only exchanges are with Pacey, which really narrows our perception of who she is and what she might want.)
But Pacey's secret won't stay that way for long, as his tryst with Tamara at the weird ruins is caught on tape in a bit that really stretches logic, even for a teen soap. Dawson spent his day working on Helmets of Glory, the cheesy sports drama being produced by his film class (and as he explains in an exposition-heavy conversation with Pacey, he can become a full member of the class if he does well as Nellie's PA). But he's got his own movie to work on, and he wants to shoot a single scene up at the ruins that finds Jen reflecting on the death of her sea monster boyfriend. Dawson also explains that he's using the same scenario to stage a perfectly cinematic first kiss with Jen (this mostly involves the setting and playing Toad the Wet Sprocket's "All I Want" on a boombox). Jen rightfully calls this creepy. I understand Dawson's need to make things dramatic, but everything about this whole scenario points to him being a real weirdo. I can relate—I thought that grandiose moves were the only things that impressed women during most of my teens and twenties, and every single one of those is mildly humiliating to me now. I saw a chance to make some magic, but the women (rightfully) saw an obsessive weirdo. It's not a great look, and it's another piece of evidence that points to people not liking Dawson at all. He's a very difficult character to like, particularly when we're supposed to go with his whims.
- Joey calls Pacey "butt plug." Was that an epithet thrown around by a lot of teens in '98?
- It's a little on the nose narratively, but Billie Myers' "The First Time" is a fucking JAM.
- I love Tanya Donnelly's "Pretty Deep" but I'm less forgiving of the way it's used in this episode: She hits the lyric "Do I look like a liar?" RIGHT as Anderson appears to possibly blow the cover off of Joey's charade.
- I've never read Ethan Frome. Should I?
- Jen shows up dressed a cheerleader for a scene in Helmets of Glory, which ends up being a bit of foreshadowing: Jen actually joins the cheerleading squad later in the series (though if I remember correctly, it was primarily out of protest of something)
- I deeply coveted Anderson Crawford's J. Crew ensemble. In fact, a lot of Dawson's wardrobe overlapped with my own—including a sweater vest that I think shows up relatively soon.
- Nellie is one of the worst characters Dawson's Creek ever introduced, mostly because actress Nicole Nieth is completely unable to handle the dialogue but also because she's deeply underwritten as a villain. In fact, she'll be pretty much supplanted by Abby Morgan (a much better character played by a much better actress) in a couple of episodes.
- Serious question: What format is the film class using to make Helmets of Glory? Nellie tells Dawson he's got to get more tape, so does that mean VHS? Or are they actually shooting on film?
- Anderson Crawford is a JFK conspiracy enthusiast (he even read the whole Warren Report), a detail I would find completely absurd if I wasn't also really into theories about the assassination when I was 16.